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Test scores show improvement in state, TUSD

POSTED August 25, 2016 6:49 p.m.

The results from the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress were released by the California Department of Education this week, giving insight as to how students throughout the state have improved since last year’s testing.

More than 3.2 million students took part in CAASPP, which includes a number of different assessments. The most widely tested are the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, which are given in grades three through eight and grade 11.

Smarter Balanced tests consist of two parts. First, students take a computer adaptive assessment, which bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of a student’s progress than the paper and pencil test.

During the test, if a student answers a question correctly, the student gets a more difficult question. If the student answers it incorrectly, then an easier question is given.

Students also complete a performance task that challenges their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the multiple-choice, paper-based tests they replaced.

Scores on the assessments fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met. The state also computes the average scores of all tested students, called mean scale scores, which reflects the progress of all students rather than only those who changed achievement levels from one year to the next.

Statewide, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increased at every grade. Nearly half of the students tested met or exceeded standards in English at 49 percent, and nearly four in ten students, or 37 percent, of students met or exceeded standards in mathematics.

The numbers are an improvement from last year’s assessment, which saw only 44 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards for English and a mere 33 percent meeting or exceeding mathematics standards.

“The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work, and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees, and administrators are paying off. Together we are making progress towards upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“Of course there’s more work to do, but our system has momentum. I am confident that business, political and community leaders will join parents and educators to help continue supporting increased standards and resources for schools.”

At the local level, Turlock Unified School District saw its students’ scores improve.

Forty-four percent of TUSD students met or exceeded California’s English standards – a 4 percent increase from last year’s testing. The district also improved on its mathematics scores, with the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards jumping from 25 percent to 28 percent.

Sixteen percent of English Learners within the district met or exceeded English state standards, which is a 1 percent increase from last year’s assessment. Thirty-two percent of economically disadvantaged students met or exceeded English standards, improving upon last year’s number of 29 percent.

TUSD Director of Assessment and Accountability Marjorie Bettencourt credited the district’s improved scores to successful implementation of new standards within classrooms, but also expects even more improvement as time passes and new programs are introduced to students.

“We are excited to see growth in our district regarding the CAASPP scores, but realize this is only the second year of implementation of this new assessment system, and only one measurement of student achievement,” said Bettencourt. “Implementation of new standards, new curriculum and new teaching practices to best serve our students are in full force, but also a time of transition. TUSD has focused on implementing a rigorous math curriculum and literacy standards across all content areas, and will implement a new English Language Arts/English Language Development curriculum this school year.”

Elementary schools within TUSD all made improvements on the English assessment, and Medeiros Elementary made the biggest jump, going from 39 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2015 to 46 percent this year. Math, however, proved to be a difficult subject as three schools, Dennis Earl Elementary, Julien Elementary and Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, suffered a drop in their scores. Crowell Elementary was one of four elementary schools in the district which improved upon its math score, but made the largest improvement, doubling the number of students who met or exceeded state standards in 2015.

Of the junior high and high schools within the district, nearly all schools saw improvements in both math and English except for Pitman High School, whose number of students which met or exceeded math standards went from 28 percent to 27 percent. PHS did improve upon its English numbers, with 68 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in 2015 and 76 percent doing so in 2016. Roselawn High School made incredible progress on its English assessment, going from 9 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards to 23 percent, but still had zero students meet math standards. Turlock Junior High School and Dutcher Middle School both increased the number of students meeting or exceeding mathematics standards by six percent.

While the district’s overall numbers are above the county average, they still fall below the state’s average. Bettencourt pointed out several defining characteristics of TUSD that may have contributed to the lower test scores, as well as how the district plans to address them.

“We have a high percentage of English Learners and low socioeconomic students, so we will continue to focus and provide additional support for these specific subgroups,” said Bettencourt. “We will also continue to incorporate more technology into classrooms to ensure students are prepared for college and careers for the 21st century.”

While TUSD improved its testing scores, Denair Unified School District’s numbers fell. DUSD dropped from 33 percent to 32 percent of students meeting or exceeding English state standards, and saw a 3 percent decrease in students who met or exceeded state standards for math. Denair High School fell from 66 percent to 63 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards for English, and remained at 23 percent meeting or exceeding state math standards in 2015 and 2016.

Individual student scores are reported to parents by mail. In addition, California provides a dedicated CAASPP Results Web site, where parents and the public can view and compare aggregated results among schools, districts, and counties along with statewide results.

To view broken down test results by county, district, and schools across the state, visit caaspp.cde.ca.gov.

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